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Batman & the Signal, The Walking Dead #175 & More in Required Reading: Comics for 1/3/2018

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Welcome to 2018, Required Reading readers! For those of you who do more than scroll past this introductory text block, we have a few changes to announce. Longtime Comics editor Sean Edgar has departed Paste Magazine to join Image Comics as brand manager. Former assistant editor Steve Foxe (that’s me, writing in the third person) is running the show, and frequent contributor Caitlin Rosberg, who you may also recognize from her stellar AV Club coverage, will handle half of the weekly roundup for the foreseeable future. While we’ll miss Sean dearly, we’re thrilled to see what he accomplishes at Image. Luckily, 2018 kicks off with a bounty of new comics to absorb our tears. Marvel gears up for its next cinematic outing with a new Black Panther series (co-written by another former comics journalism luminary), southern lovers Rogue and Gambit reunite in a new mini-series, The Walking Dead crosses yet another major milestone and Leia receives a one-shot worthy of her legacy. All of this and more is below in the first Required Reading of a new year—and a new era.


Batman & the Signal #1
Writers: Tony Patrick & Scott Snyder 
Artist: Cully Hamner
Publisher: DC Comics 
Getting Duke Thomas a title of his own has been a long time coming. The character first appeared in 2013’s “Zero Year” Batman arc and quickly became yet another waif for Bruce Wayne to take under his wing, especially in the first arc of All-Star Batman with a backup story that pitted Duke against the Riddler. Thomas has maintained a far more independent existence than past Robins, and it’s fitting that he took an entirely different name, too. With Batman & The Signal, Thomas becomes Batman’s daytime ally, a superhero who can protect Gotham while the Bat and his extended family sleep. It’s no surprise that Scott Snyder is co-writing the title alongside DC talent workshop graduate and X’ed writer Tony Patrick, as Snyder’s been at the helm for most of the big Batman changes for the last few years, and it’s nice to see Cully Hamner back at DC. Hamner’s crisp visual style recalls some of the best superhero animation out there, and hopefully that will attract fans to the newest member of the Bat-family. With most of the Robins tied up in some serious drama right now, much of it of their own or Bruce’s making, it’s great to have a Gotham title that looks to shine a bit brighter. Caitlin Rosberg


Chilling Adventures of Sorcery
Writers/Artists: Various
Publisher: Archie Comics
Titles like Jughead: The Hunger, Afterlife with Archie and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina have proven that a publisher once only associated with all-ages romance and comedy has interesting, dark depths to plumb. Chilling Adventures of Sorcery is a nearly 200-page anthology that collects many of Archie’s older creep comics into one place for the first time, giving horror fans and Archie readers a chance to discover what paved the way for the publisher’s current crop. With Riverdale and the announced Sabrina reboot, it’s pretty clear that there’s enough demand for moody and spooky iterations of the Archie universe. Caitlin Rosberg


Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Publisher: DC Comics 
The Hanna-Barbera books have consistently been unexpected successes for DC Comics. The Flintstones flew under the radar for a lot of readers, but provided sharp political and social commentary, and crossover titles like Batman/Elmer Fudd and Lobo/Road Runner came off like a gimmick but often proved to be so much more. A Snagglepuss series may seem like a bad gag, but writer Mark Russell already proved with his work on Bedrock’s favorites that he knows just how to handle this kind of story. Making the second-most-recognizable pink cat a closeted Broadway playwright putting him in opposition to the House Un-American Activities Committee isn’t exactly a subtle message, but with the world we’re in right now, it’s likely to be a powerful one. Previews have already attracted scores of attention and commentary online, especially from folks who don’t read regularly comics. Russell is joined by relative newcomer Mike Feehan, and the only damper on the whole project is that it’s scheduled to be only six issues. Caitlin Rosberg


Forces of Destiny: Leia #1
Writers: Elsa Charretier & Pierrick Colinet
Artist: Elsa Charretier
Publisher: IDW Publishing
IDW has fast capitalized on whatever corner of Star Wars comics real estate it was able to carve away from Marvel, most recently with the Forces of Destiny banner, a series of standalone stories celebrating the franchise’s inspiring, resilient female characters. Unlike too many similar past initiatives, IDW’s editors have actually assembled women to craft these books, and Leia comes to us from Unstoppable Wasp artist and Infinite Loop co-creator Elsa Charretier. Charretier’s cartooning is reminiscent of the late, great Darwyn Cooke yet unmistakably her own, and a welcome respite from the photo-realism favored by Marvel’s crop of Star Wars artists. For Star Wars fans whose tear ducts haven’t quite dried up following General Organa’s appearance in The Last Jedi and the recent anniversary of Carrie Fisher’s passing, Forces of Destiny: Leia is this week’s must-read. Steve Foxe


Generation Gone Vol. 1
Writers: Ales Kot, André Lima Araújo
Artist: André Lima Araújo
Publisher: Image Comics 
Ales Kot is no stranger to creator-owned work, but it has been some time since he dipped his toe into the comics pool, and it comes as no surprise to his fans he has something specific to say upon his return. Kot and co-creator André Lima Araújo ask the question, “What happens when millennials get super powers?” and Generation Gone posits an answer. The first volume feels a lot like The Boys when that series debuted, full of sharp commentary both on the state of superhero comics and the world that produces them. If another team were to tackle this same story, it might read like a newspaper article blaming millennials for yet another expensive industry tanking, but Kot and Araújo provide the right kind of context to make it clear that Generation Gone takes place in a world that leaves people desperate and investigating the choices they make when trapped without great options. Generation Gone is pointed and critical without rejecting the genre that birthed it, and makes for a refreshing change from most cape and cowl titles. Caitlin Rosberg


Koschei the Deathless #1
Writer:   Mike Mignola  
Artist: Ben Stenbeck
Publisher: Dark Horse
In the latest launch in the world of Hellboy, Mike Mignola and frequent collaborator Ben Stenbeck dig into the past of one of Hellboy’s former foes, Koschei the Deathless. With both of them currently in Hell together, Koschei takes the time to explain to Hellboy how he became the captive of the witch who sent him to kill Hellboy in the first place. Mignola and Stenbeck are a known quantity at this point, their collaborations producing some of the best Dark Horse books, let alone Hellboy stories. Mignola’s visual style is of course instantly recognizable for most comic fans, but Stenbeck’s own skill and the sharp blacks that he and colorist Dave Stewart use to carve out Hellboy’s world are almost as closely associated with the “Mignolaverse” at this point. Mignola is often at his best when telling deeply personal stories that lean on traditional folktales like Koschei and Baba Yaga, and this title will hopefully be a great way to keep fans happy while they wait for the new incarnation of Hellboy on the big screen. Caitlin Rosberg


Rise of the Black Panther #1
Writers: Ta-Nehisi Coates & Evan Narcisse
Artist: Paul Renaud
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Marvel’s pre-film ramp-up for T’Challa is in full effect, with longtime journalist Evan Narcisse joining ongoing Black Panther writer Ta-Nehesi Coates and artist Paul Renaud for this origin-story mini-series. T’Challa’s past has been explored in previous runs, but Rise promises to expand on the reign of his father, T’Chaka, and the birth mother T’Challa never knew. Marvel has repeatedly turned to writers from outside of comics to pen modern Black Panther stories—journalist Narcisse joins essayist Coates, novelist/essayist Roxane Gay, poet Yona Harvey and novelist Nnedi Okorafor—which has occasionally resulted in compelling books that struggle to fully embrace the comic medium. Narcisse is perhaps the closest yet to the format, having written about sequential art for years at outlets like io9. With only a handful of truly essential runs across the character’s lifetime, Black Panther certainly deserves this recent push—and the brain trust of influential black writers behind it. Steve Foxe


Rogue & Gambit #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Pere Perez
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
If I were writing this blurb a week earlier, I could gush about Kelly Thompson’s work and the improved prospects of X-Men publishing without a tinge of bittersweetness, but unfortunately it’s now public knowledge that Thompson’s fan-favorite take on Hawkeye and the X-titles Iceman, Generation X, and Jean Grey will all conclude early in 2018. At least Rogue & Gambit has been solicited as a mini-series, so readers can approach this star-crossed team-up without anxiety over its long-term prospects. Rogue has been on the Uncanny Avengers roster and away from primary X-books for years now, and she and longtime on-again, off-again Cajun beau Gambit have had few opportunities to interact. Much of the X-Men universe has been reverting to status quo lately (more on that in a second), but Thompson’s involvement—and Pere Perez’ vibrant cape-comic cartooning—should reassure readers that Rogue & Gambit will amount to more than nostalgic melodrama with excessive accents. In other X-news, Astonishing X-Men kicks off its second arc with a resurrected Xavier in tow, making for three flagship mutant returns in as many months. And if all of this sounds confusing, the second issue of Ed Piskor’s continuity-celebrating X-Men: Grand Design also hits stands this week. Steve Foxe


Transformers vs. The Visionaries #1
Writer: Magdalene Visaggio
Artist: Fico Ossio
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Is it fair to call IDW Publishing’s Hasbro like “beleaguered”? While the Transformers boasts one of the most dedicated fandoms in comics, IDW’s efforts in the past year to expand the Hasbro love have largely fallen flat, and most recently been marred by the controversy of Scarlett’s Strike Force’s early cancellation. Transformers vs. The Visionaries incorporates the most obscure toy property yet into the shared Hasbro universe with the Visionaries, based on the magically powered hologram-gimmick action figures from the ‘80s. Eisner-nominated Kim & Kim creator Magdalene Visaggio (full disclosure: a former Paste contributor) is no stranger to sci-fi outings, but Transformers vs. The Visionaries looks to be her most straightforward action outing yet. Artist Fico Ossio is a regular contributor to Transformers comics and wider IDW offerings. IDW and Hasbro’s dreams of their own imprint empire may seem unlikely, but Visaggio’s passionate fanbase should hopefully bring in readers beyond the Cybertron loyalists. Steve Foxe


The Walking Dead #175
Writer:   Robert Kirkman  
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Skybound/ Image Comics 
Comics press, Paste Magazine included, is often guilty of ignoring ongoing series unless there’s a major creative shakeup or milestone, and The Walking Dead is no exception. Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s zombie epic has remained a sequential-art tidal wave, drawing in an unshakeable readership for both monthly singles and trade collections. This week, TWD reaches the insane milestone of 175 issues, far beyond the decaying life-spans of the walkers wjo shamble across its pages. While the comic is often overshadowed in the news by the flashy behind-the-scenes drama of the AMC television show, 175 is a number worth celebrating, even if the solicit text (“NEW FRIENDS. NEW ENEMIES. NEW THREATS.”) is comically vague and could apply to a half-dozen previous story arcs in the book. Steve Foxe

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